Eagles Step Away from Conference Race for BracketBusters Game

Following come-from-behind win over Northern Colorado, Eastern visits UC Irvine Saturday in Sears ESPN BracketBusters

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It may be a meaningless game in the Big Sky Conference race, but the next game is anything but meaningless to Eastern Washington University men’s basketball head coach Jim Hayford.

With three crucial league games left to play in the regular season, the Eagles play their final non-conference game of the year this Saturday (Feb. 18) at 7 p.m. against UC Irvine in the Sears ESPN BracketBusters. As part of the agreement, the Anteaters will play in Cheney in the 2013-14 season.

Eastern is coming off a thrilling 79-76 victory over Northern Colorado on Wednesday (Feb. 15) that helped Eastern move from sixth into fifth in the Big Sky standings. The Eagles are now 12-14 overall and 6-7 in the league, and play a UC Irvine team this week that is 9-17 overall and 5-8 in the Big West Conference.

The radio broadcast of this Saturday’s game, featuring play-by-play announcer Dennis Patchin, may be heard on 700-AM ESPN, via the web at 700espn.com and via iPhone application (search for “700 ESPN” and download the free app).

 “We will use the BracketBuster game to make us better and as a chance to teach us how to win,” said the first-year EWU head coach. “We’re putting our uniforms on so we’re playing to win. We are not going to hide guys because of injuries. We’re building a program, so we need to learn how to win, which is why we’re going down to play a winning team.”

Eastern won against Northern Colorado, but the Eagles had to rally from a 17-point deficit with 17:21 to play, and were still down by 16 with 11:25 left. But a near triple-double by senior point guard Cliff Colimon, 19 points in 21 minutes by junior forward Collin Chiverton and three big 3-pointers off the bench by true freshman Parker Kelly in the second half sparked EWU to the win. Colimon had 22 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in the game, and Chiverton scored 14 of his points after intermission. Kelly hit a 3-pointer to give EWU a 78-76 lead with 14 seconds to play, and UNC had two turnovers in the final four seconds.

“They were really excited,” Hayford said of his players in the locker room after the game. “They were beating up on each other -- when they’re happy they’re loud. They are really, really easy to love, and they really, really want to win.”

The Bears, the leading 3-point shooting team in NCAA Division I entering the game at 44.5 percent, made seven consecutive 3-point attempts to help themselves to the big lead. They made only three of their last eight, however.

 “We felt in the first half and the first segment in the second half that they were able to run their plays,” explained Hayford. “We asked our guys to dial up the pressure and don’t let them do what they want to do. We wanted to impose our will on them and I think our players did a great job of doing that.”

This Saturday’s game will feature two of the top three-point shooting teams in NCAA Division I, as the Eagles currently average 9.3 per game to rank fourth (through games of Feb. 12). The Anteaters are 49th with a current 7.7 average, having made 201-of-571 for 35.2 percent. Eastern set school records for 3-pointers made and attempted in a single season in the win over Northern Colorado, and has drained 242-of-665 for 36.4 percent this season.

The Anteaters lost 85-62 at home Wednesday (Feb. 15) against UC Santa Barbara, falling behind 44-29 at halftime. UC Irvine is coached by Russell Turner, who is in his second season at the helm after finishing 13-19 a year ago.

UC Irvine ranked 33rd (out of 336 teams) in NCAA Division I last season in scoring offense at 75.3 points per game, which led the Big West Conference and was the program's highest average in 16 seasons. This season, the Anteaters are averaging 67.9 per game.

The Anteaters are led by Daman Starring, a 6-3 junior guard from Las Vegas, and Michael Wilder, a 6-foot-2 junior guard/forward from Long Beach, Calif. Starring is averaging 12.0 points per game and Wilder has an 11.5 average, and they  have combined for an average of 9.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.0 steals per game. Wilder has made 65-of-166 (39.2 percent) 3-point attempts, and Starring has made 42-of-107 (39.3 percent). Five other players average between 6.9 and 8.7 points per outing.

UC Irvine is 3-2 and EWU is 1-3 versus common opponents. Eastern defeated UC Davis on Nov. 27 by a 79-59 score and UCI defeated its Big West rival 70-55 on Jan. 7 and 68-61 on Feb. 2. Both the Eagles and Anteaters lost to UCLA (EWU 60-47 and UCI 89-60), and both were defeated by Weber State (EWU 76-69 and UCI 80-72). The only difference is that EWU lost at Seattle 91-78 on Jan. 16 and the Anteaters won at home versus the Redhawks by a 78-67 margin on Jan. 24.


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How the League Race Shapes Up

With a better road record (3-3) than home mark (3-4) thus far, the Eagles are battling for one of six berths in the Big Sky Conference Tournament that starts at campus sites on March 3 (No 3 seed and No. 4 seed host games). Eastern plays at 7-6 Idaho State (Feb. 23) and 7-6 Portland State (Feb. 25), and then ends the regular season at home versus Idaho State (Feb. 28).

Portland State beat Sacramento State 85-67 Wednesday (Feb. 15) to drop the Hornets to 4-10 in the league and 9-16 overall. Eastern moved ahead of Montana State in the league standings, after the Bobcats (now 6-8) lost to league-leader Weber State 79-70. The next round of league games is Thursday, Feb. 23.

With EWU just one game out of third place, there are still too many tiebreaker scenarios to get a good handle on where the Eagles most likely will place. But just one more EWU victory coupled with a UNC or MSU loss guarantees the Eagles a spot in the Big Sky Tournament for the 12th time in school history.

“I know that if we win all three of those games we will be in a very good position,” said Hayford. “If we win two of those games we will be in the postseason and if we win one of the three we will probably still be in the playoffs.”


Eagles 212th in RPI

In the Ratings Percentage Index lists released by the NCAA on Feb. 13, Eastern was ranked 212th out of 344 NCAA Division I schools. The only Big Sky teams ahead of the Eagles were Weber State (86th), Montana (97th) and Portland State (189th). After Eastern, which was a season-high 129th on Jan. 2, the next league schools were Idaho State (249th), Northern Colorado (257th), Montana State (285th), Sacramento State (310th) and Northern Arizona (333rd).

In the Sagarin Computer Ratings (through games of Feb. 15), the Eagles were third in the league and 200th in the nation with the 195th-highest strength of schedule rating. Montana was 107th, followed by Weber State (115th), Portland State (201st), Northern Colorado (256th), Idaho State (296th), Montana State (293rd), Sacramento State (286th) and Northern Arizona (332nd).

UC Irvine, EWU’s opponent on Feb. 18, is ranked 272nd in the RPI and 259th in the Sagarin Ratings.


Slow Starting Eagles Rally for Win

Slow starts have now plagued Eastern in its last three games, including a 79-76 victory over Northern Colorado on Feb. 15 when the Eagles trailed 43-29 at halftime, by 17 with 17:21 left and by 16 with 11:25 remaining. “I love my team, but boy are we schizophrenic,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford after the come-from-behind victory.

On Feb. 11 versus Weber State, the Eagles fell behind 8-0, 14-3 and 16-5, and trailed at halftime 41-30. Versus the Hornets a week earlier, Eastern made just 24 percent of its shots in the first half compared to 50 percent for Sac State. The Eagles trailed 40-21 at halftime against Sac State, but outscored the Hornets 50-35 in the second half in a four-point loss. In fact, it took EWU 3:42 to score its first points against the Wildcats and 4:42 to get on the scoreboard against Sac State.

Also this season, the Eagles fell behind at intermission versus Washington State 41-25, Saint Mary’s 40-25, Montana 40-27 and UCLA 28-18.

 “It’s an average day with the Eagles -- we’ve been here before and down big at halftime,” said Hayford after the Northern Colorado game. “I told the team at halftime, ‘I know everyone in the room knows we can come back, so let’s finish one this time.’”


Eastern is Hoping for a 12th Appearance in the Big Sky Conference Tournament

Eastern is now 7-10 in 11 appearances in the league tournament. Last year’s appearance was EWU’s first in five seasons, having qualified for each tournament from 1998-2006. Eastern ended its season with losses to Montana in both 2005 and 2006, but the year before won the title with a 71-59 championship game victory over Northern Arizona.

Although its streak came to an end in the 2006-07 season, Eastern was just the fifth school in league history to make nine-straight appearances in the Big Sky Conference Tournament. Eastern started the streak back in 1998 after making just one trip to the tourney in their first 10 seasons as a member of the conference.

Weber State had its string of 24-straight appearances stopped in 2005-06, and Montana had a string of 21-straight from 1978-98. The other streaks were 16 by Idaho (1981-96) and 11 by Nevada (1982-92).

Interestingly, Montana’s 77-69 victory over the Lumberjacks on Feb. 28, 2005, extended Eastern’s streak and ended NAU’s eight-season streak. Eastern’s streak started in 1998 with an end-of-year victory at Montana. That “winner advance, loser eliminated” game ended Montana’s 21-year streak.

In 2011, Eastern’s season came to an end with a 79-70 loss at Weber State in the quarterfinal round of the tournament. That came just three days after the Eagles stunned WSU on their home court 75-59 to end the regular season. Because of the upset, the Wildcats lost their chance at a first-round bye and had to face the Eagles again. In the rematch, WSU out-scored EWU 46-25 in the second half as the Wildcats overcame a 12-point EWU halftime lead and a 15-point deficit early in the second half.

Here is a list of Eastern’s appearances in the Big Sky Tournament.
2011 - Quarterfinal (Ogden, Utah) - #6 seed vs. #3 Weber State - L, 70-79
2006 - Semifinal (Flagstaff, Ariz.) - #3 seed vs. #2 Montana - L, 71-73 (ot)
2006 - Quarterfinal (Cheney, Wash.) - #3 seed vs. #6 Portland State - W, 81-75
2005 - Quarterfinal (Missoula, Mont.) - #6 seed vs. #3 Montana - L, 48-58
2004 - Championship (Cheney, Wash.) - #1 seed vs. #2 Northern Ariz. - W, 71-59
2004 - Semifinals (Cheney, Wash.) - #1 seed vs. #5 Weber State - W, 72-53
2003 - Championship (Ogden, Utah) - #2 seed vs. #1 Weber State - L, 57-60
2003 - Semifinals (Ogden, Utah) - #2 seed vs. #4 Idaho State - W, 76-67
2002 - Championship (Bozeman, Mont.) - #2 seed vs. #5 Montana - L, 66-70
2002 - Semifinals (Bozeman, Mont.) - #2 seed vs. #3 Weber State - W, 62-57
2001 - Championship (Northridge, Calif.) - #2 seed vs. #1 CS Northridge - L, 58-73
2001 - Semifinals (Northridge, Calif.) - #2 seed vs. #5 Northern Arizona - W, 58-53
2000 - Semifinals (Missoula, Mont.) - #2 seed vs. #3 Northern Arizona - L, 65-82
1999 - Quarterfinals (Ogden, Utah) - #6 seed vs. #3 Portland State - L, 74-80
1998 - Quarterfinals (Flagstaff, Ariz.) - #3 seed vs. #6 CS Northridge - L, 98-104 (ot)
1990 - Championship (Boise, Idaho) - #2 seed vs. #1 Idaho - L, 62-65
1990 - Semifinals (Boise, Idaho) - #2 seed vs. #5 Weber State - W, 83-67


With Turnover Advantage in All But Three Games Thus Far, Eastern 15th Nationally in Turnover Margin

Eastern has had fewer turnovers than its opponents in 23 of 26 games thus far, with 402 turnovers forced and 306 committed. The result is a Big Sky-leading turnover margin of plus 3.7 per game (EWU’s mark of 3.8 ranked 15th in NCAA Division I through games of Feb. 12). Eastern is leading the league in turnovers forced at 15.5 per game and is also No. 2 in fewest committed with a current mark of 11.8 (its average of 11.6 ranked 28th in NCAA Division I through games of Feb. 12). In fact, EWU’s 11.8 average is on pace to shatter the school record from the 1999-2000 season when the Eagles committed only 13.5 per game.

In other Big Sky team statistics rankings, Eastern is first in the league in 3-pointers made with a current average of 9.3 per game (its 9.2 average ranked fourth nationally through games of Feb. 12, behind Florida 10.3, Coppin State 9.8 and Weber State 9.3). The Eagles also are first in the Big Sky in offensive rebounds (12.2 per game) and steals (7.1); second in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.1) and blocked shots (3.6); and third in scoring offense (72.3), 3-point field goal percentage (.364) and field goal percentage defense (.443). The Eagles are last in in field goal percentage (.409) and rebounds allowed per game (36.7); and second-to-last in rebounding margin (-2.6).

Individually, Collin Chiverton is second in the league in 3-pointers made per game with an average of 3.1 (his 3.1 average ranked eighth in NCAA Division I through games of Feb. 12), third in scoring (15.9), ninth in 3-point percentage (.413) and sixth in free throw percentage (.792). Cliff Colimon is second in the Big Sky Conference in assists (5.2 per game), fourth in steals (1.8), fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.6), sixth in scoring (15.3), sixth in 3-pointers made per game (2.1), fourth in free throw percentage (.813) and third in minutes played (34.7). Cliff Ederaine is second in rebounding (7.9), 17th in scoring (10.8), 11th in field goal percentage (.490), third in blocked shots (1.2), ninth in assists (3.0), sixth in steals (1.4) and fourth in offensive rebounds (2.5). Laron Griffin is second in offensive rebounds (3.0), fourth overall in rebounding (7.9) and is ninth in blocked shots (0.7). Tremayne Johnson is seventh in blocked shots (0.7).

In Big Sky Conference statistics from league games only, EWU leads in 3-pointers made per game (8.8) and offensive rebounds (12.2); and is last in field goal percentage (.407) and rebounds allowed (36.5). Griffin is tied for the lead in offensive rebounds (3.1), and Ederaine is second in overall rebounds (8.5) and blocked shots (1.5).


School Records Fall as Eagles Lead Big Sky and are Fourth in NCAA Division I in 3-Point Shooting

En route to setting school records for 3-pointers made and attempted, the Eagles are currently averaging 9.3 3-pointers per game to rank second in the Big Sky, just ahead of the 9.1 average for Weber State. Eastern’s average of 9.2 ranked fourth in NCAA Division I in games played through Feb. 12. Eastern has made 242-of-665 for 36.4 percent (third-best in the league). For Eastern to score the same amount of points from inside the arc with the same amount of shots, the Eagles would have to make 54.6 percent.

Eight different Eagles have made treys, led by the 81 of junior college transfer Collin Chiverton and 55 by point guard Cliff Colimon. Chiverton’s average of 3.1 per game is second in the league and the same average ranked eighth nationally through games of Feb. 12.

Based on the 30-game regular season, Eastern is on pace to finish 279-of-767 and continue to distance itself from the previous school records for makes and attempts (242, 656). Chiverton already ranks second in school history for treys made in a season, with the record of 103 set by Shannon Taylor in the 1998-99 season. Chiverton is on pace to finish with 93.

The Eagles finished the 2010-11 season with a pair of school records for 3-point shooting. Eastern finished with 242 makes and 656 attempts, breaking the single season makes record of 241 set in 1999, and the record for attempts of 649 set the same season. Kevin Winford made 66 3-pointers in the 2010-11 season to rank fifth (now sixth) in single season school history, and his 187 attempts were fourth (now fifth). Jeffrey Forbes made 55 treys to rank 11th (now 12th).

“We’re confident with our system that we are going to get the 3-point shot no matter who we play,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford after Eastern made 13 treys in a 73-66 win over Idaho on Nov. 30. “We are not always going to shoot the percentage we like, but we got 28 looks from three against Idaho and that’s right around where we’ve been. There are times where we might have five 3-point shooters or four on the floor at the same time, and we start the game with only three. (Idaho’s Memorial Gym) was an easy gym to shoot in because it’s small, and I think our players bought into it. So we shot the ball well. And hitting 13 threes – eight in the first half – kind of takes them out of the defense they want to play.”

Eagles Flexing Their Muscles Inside

With Eastern’s shooting percentage from the perimeter suffering at various times in the league season, Eastern has re-established an inside presence. In a 69-52 win over Montana State on Jan. 28, Eastern had a season-high 40 points inside the paint, second only overall to the 44 the Eagles had versus Linfield on Dec. 8. The previous most versus a NCAA foe was on Dec. 28 when the Eagles had 26 against MSU in an 82-66 victory in Bozeman. The Eagles also had 32 inside the paint versus Sacramento State on Feb. 4.

A trio of seniors 6-foot-7 or taller paved the way for the most recent win over MSU, combining for 40 points and 30 rebounds. Laron Griffin (6-8) had a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds; Cliff Ederaine (6-7) had 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists; and Tremayne Johnson (6-7) came off the bench to score 11 points and grab eight boards. In the next game, a 74-68 road win at Northern Arizona, Ederaine had a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds; Griffin had seven rebounds and five points; and Johnson had six points and three boards. Collectively, they made 12-of-18 free throws versus the Lumberjacks.

“One of the things that we were really working on is that if we want to get the ball inside we need to get higher percentage shots and we need to shoot more free throws,” said Hayford after the MSU rematch. “We knew our team was progressing and we needed to develop some sort of low post presence in order to get better as a team.

“It doesn’t feel like there are that many nights where the other team’s big guys are the same size as ours,” Hayford said of his big men. “So it was neat for us to flex our muscles down low.”

In Big Sky Conference statistics, Cliff Ederaine is second in rebounding (7.9), 17th in scoring (10.8), 11th in field goal percentage (.490), third in blocked shots (1.2), ninth in assists (3.0), sixth in steals (1.4) and fourth in offensive rebounds (2.5). Laron Griffin is second in offensive rebounds (3.0), fourth overall in rebounding (7.9) and is ninth in blocked shots (0.7). Tremayne Johnson is seventh in blocked shots (0.7). In Big Sky Conference statistics from league games only, Griffin is tied for the lead in offensive rebounds (3.1), and Ederaine is second in overall rebounds (8.5) and blocked shots (1.5).

Ederaine has had six double-doubles this season – three in his last six games – and has had six in his career. He had 15 points and 18 rebounds (fourth-most in school history) against Sacramento State on Feb. 4, and had 11 points and 13 boards one game earlier versus Northern Arizona on Feb. 2. He also had six assists in each game. His other double-doubles this season included 10 points and 13 boards against Montana on Jan. 26, 12 points and 12 rebounds versus  Northern Colorado on Jan. 14 and 11 points and 11 rebounds against Linfield on Dec. 8.

Griffin had his lone double-double this season against MSU and now has four in his career, and has had four performances with at least 10 rebounds this year and 10 in his career. Johnson has had four double-doubles in his career, including two this year versus Portland State (20 points, 10 rebounds on Jan. 21) and Montana (14 points and 10 rebounds on Dec. 30).

After leading Eastern to a pair of late November victories, Ederaine was selected as Big Sky Conference Player of the Week, the league announced Nov. 29. The 6-foot-7, 205-pound senior forward from Moreno Valley, Calif., averaged 20.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and two blocks per game as the Eagles notched a road win over Hawai’i (89-72) on Nov. 22, and topped UC Davis (79-59) on Nov. 27 in Cheney.

He had a splendid outing in a 76-69 loss to Weber State on Jan. 5, finishing with 20 points, nine rebounds, five assists, a career-high five steals and a pair of blocked shots. He had no turnovers in 34 minutes after having five in 23 minutes in EWU’s previous game, a 79-71 loss at Montana.

“Big Cliff played a great game -- he was the best big man on the court,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford after the Weber State game. “We were able to run the offense through him. He felt bad about the turnovers in Missoula so I asked him what he was going to do about that the next game. He really worked hard tonight.”

En route to a career-high 23 points versus UC Davis, Ederaine made 8-of-9 shots from the field, including his first trey of the season and only the second of his career. A 45.6 percent free throw shooter a year ago, he made 6-of-9 for the line against the Aggies to improve to 20-of-26 – 76.9 percent (currently he is at 61.1 percent, 77-of-126).

To add to his night, Ederaine also had eight rebounds, three blocked shots and a steal. Ederaine scored 11 points in the first 6:24 of the game as Eastern held early leads of 13-4 and 17-9. He had 11 points, five boards and five assists in the second half alone. “We were running our offense through the high post and Big Cliff put the team on his shoulders,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford.

In another home game this season – a 70-61 win over South Dakota on Nov. 15 -- Ederaine had 15 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals. In the team’s third home game on Dec. 8 versus Linfield, he had his third career double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and also had six assists.

His performance against South Dakota was his second career double-double, with his first coming against New Hope last year when he had 12 points and 17 rebounds, as well as his previous career high for assists with four. He had 10 double figure scoring performance and seven with at least 10 rebounds in the 2010-11 season.


Chiverton a Candidate for Big Sky Newcomer of the Year Accolades

Junior college transfer Collin Chiverton is making an early-season case for Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year accolades, as he has had 11 20-point performances as an Eagle – including five-straight games from Jan. 12-26. Chiverton is second in the league in 3-pointers made per game with an average of 3.1 (his 3.1 average ranked  eighth in NCAA Division I through games of Feb. 12), third in scoring (15.9), ninth in 3-point percentage (.413) and sixth in free throw percentage (.792).

However, an off-season stress fracture in his foot was reinjured over the Christmas break, and the 6-foot-6 Chiverton has been hampered ever since. In fact, it was painful enough to limit him to 10 minutes, six shots and four points in the first half against Northern Colorado on Feb. 15. Eastern trailed 43-29 at halftime, but rallied for a 79-76 win, as Chiverton made 4-of-6 shots and scored 14 points after intermission to finish with 19 points in 21 minutes.

He didn’t play in the first half against NAU on Jan. 7, but scored 12 points in the second half – including EWU’s first 10 of the half to give the Eagles the lead for good in the 76-59 win. He followed that with 21 points in just 25 minutes of action versus Sacramento State on Jan. 12, 21 in 18 minutes versus Northern Colorado on Jan. 14 and 26 in 26 minutes at Seattle on Jan. 16. Thus, in those four games, he scored nearly a point a minute – 80 in 83 minutes – while making 19-of-34 (56 percent) from the 3-point arc.

He followed that by playing 37 minutes against Portland State on Jan. 21, and scored 22 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the 3-point stripe and 7-of-21 overall. His fifth-straight 20-point performance came versus Montana on Jan. 26 when he made 5-of-10 shots overall and 4-of-6 from the 3-point stripe, as well as 8-of-12 free throws.

“It’s an injury that the doctor says he can play through, but with a tremendous amount of pain,” Eastern head coach Jim Hayford explained after the NAU win. “So you have to respect him as a teammate in that he’ll do whatever he can to play. We’re trying to get him as much rest as we can. He had 10 points in his first four minutes, but he also did a great job guarding (NAU guard Stallon) Saldivar.”

For the season, Chiverton is 81-of-196 from the 3-point stripe for 41.3 percent and 57-of-167 inside the arc for 34.1 percent. His 81 3-pointers are second in school history and his 196 attempts are third. He made 6-of-8 treys and 1-of-2 2-point attempts en route to scoring 21 points versus Sac State on Jan. 12, and versus Pacific Lutheran on Dec. 16 he made 6-of-9 2-point attempts and 4-of-10 treys en route to scoring 26 points.

Chiverton opened his Eastern career in a big way, scoring 25 points in Eastern’s 77-69 loss at Gonzaga on Nov. 11. A former redshirt at GU rival Saint Mary’s in California, Chiverton made 6-of-12 shots from the 3-point arc and 8-of-24 shots from the field against Gonzaga. He scored 25 again in EWU’s 70-61 win over South Dakota, making 9-of-21 shots overall and 6-of-13 from the 3-point arc. He added a third 20-point performance with 20 points in EWU’s 89-72 upset of Hawai’i on Nov. 19.

Chiverton’s debut versus GU was the best for an Eagle since Eastern moved to NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season. The previous best came a year ago when Chiverton’s Eastern teammate Tremayne Johnson scored 21 in a 67-60 loss at San Jose State. Interestingly, current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey scored only 14 points in his debut against Pacific Lutheran in the 2005-06 season. Chiverton’s scoring output was also the second-best season-opening performance by an Eagle since David Peed scored 29 points on Nov. 25, 1989, in EWU’s 96-84 loss to BYU.

After leaving Saint Mary’s – a team he scored 18 against on Dec. 20 -- Chiverton played one season at Salt Lake Community College before leading City College of San Francisco to the 2010-11 California Community Colleges Athletic Association title. He averaged 19 points per game as a sophomore, including an average of 30 per game in the tournament, as San Francisco finished the season 32-1 with a 27-game winning streak.


Colimon Impressive in Eastern Victories

Senior point guard Cliff Colimon has been impressive in Eastern victories, including his near triple-double versus Northern Colorado on Feb. 15 when he had 22 points, nine assists and nine rebounds in EWU’s come-from-behind 79-76 win. He also had a 22-point effort on 8-of-16 shooting from the field in EWU’s Big Sky Conference-opening 82-66 victory over Montana State on Dec. 28.

He has scored at least 20 points on nine occasions this season, including his last three outings. In Eastern’s victories this season, Colimon is averaging 16.7 points per game on 43.0 percent shooting from the field (28-of-68 from the 3-point arc for 41.2 percent). In EWU’s losses, he is averaging 14.1 points on 35.4 percent shooting from the field (27-of-77 3-point shooting for 35.1 percent).

For the season, Colimon is second in the Big Sky Conference in assists (5.2 per game), fourth in steals (1.8), fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.6), sixth in scoring (15.3), sixth in 3-pointers made per game (2.1), fourth in free throw percentage (.813) and third in minutes played (34.7).

Colimon struggled with his shot in Eastern losses to Saint Mary’s (77-61 on Dec. 20), UCLA (60-47 on Dec. 14) and Washington State (75-49 on Dec. 3). He was just 4-of-33 (12.1 percent) from the field in those three games, including only 2-of-13 (15.4 percent) of his 3-point attempts.

But it’s hard to put up better numbers than what Colimon compiled in a victory over Linfield (104-54 on Dec. 8) and a loss to Cal State Fullerton (91-76 on Dec. 11). In 72 minutes of action, Colimon had 46 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds, six steals and just one turnover. He combined to make 18-of-34 shots from the field and 7-of-16 from 3-point range en route to scoring 23 points in each outing.

Colimon followed that with five assists, two steals and two turnovers in 40 minutes versus UCLA, but scored just five points on 1-of-12 shooting. Two nights later versus PLU, he made 8-of-12 shots from the field, 4-of-6 3-pointers and 6-of-9 free throws to finish with a season-high 26 points – one from his career high. He also added seven assists and three steals, but also had an uncharacteristic seven turnovers.

In Eastern’s 104-54 win over Linfield on Dec. 8, Colimon scored 23 points and had three steals and a career-high 11 assists to equal the seventh-most in school history. It was Eastern’s top assist performance in more than 10 years since Jason Lewis had 12 versus Cal State Northridge on Jan. 20, 2001. Colimon also had no turnovers in 32 minutes of action.

Head coach Jim Hayford said it best after the Linfield game: “I loved Colimon’s line – 11 assists, 23 points and no turnovers.”

“We stopped calling him Little Cliff – his name is ‘Tough Cliff’ now,” Hayford said in reference to the nickname given to Colimon and the “Big Cliff” moniker given to forward Cliff Ederaine. “Colimon was hurt more than anybody by his performance at Washington State – he had a tough night down there. Hopefully the confidence he gained against Linfield will be fuel in his tank.”

He scored 17 points and had eight assists in his season-opener against Gonzaga on Nov. 11. The eight assists versus the Bulldogs was his career high until the output of 11 versus Linfield. His assists total against Gonzaga doubled his previous career high of four set last season against Idaho State (1/29/11) and Sacramento State (12/29/10).

Colimon’s career high of 27 points came in the final game of the 2010-11 season against Weber State (3/5/11) in the Big Sky Conference Tournament. In fact, in his last three games last season and first game this year, Colimon averaged 18.5 points per game, including victories over Montana (59-55) and Weber State (75-59), and near-misses versus Weber State (79-70) and Gonzaga (77-69).


Eagles Continue to Climb Three-Point Career and Single Season Lists

A pair of Eagles already rank in the top 10 on several Eastern season and career lists. Junior Jeffrey Forbes has 136 3-pointers made in his career to rank fourth, his 358 attempts are fourth and his .380 percentage ranks 10th. Fellow junior Kevin Winford has 109 makes to rank sixth and his 320 attempts are fifth, and Cliff Colimon has 103 makes to rank eighth and 273 attempts to rank 12th.

Those players have also been impressive from the free throw line in their careers. Forbes, in fact, set a single season school record for free throw percentage (.900, 54-of-60) in the 2010-11 season, just ahead of the previous record of .899 set by Darren Cooper in 2001-02). In his career, Forbes has made what would be a school record at 87.3 percent (131-of-150), but he is 22 attempts shy to meet the minimum of two free throw attempts per game. Winford’s 84.3 percent (59-of-70) is also just behind the school record, but he also does not meet the minimums (he has 70 and would need 164). Currently with the school record is the 84.9 percent performance of Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame member Dick Edwards (1953-55). Colimon has made 78.3 percent in his career (112-of-143) and is inching toward the No. 10 position (79.0 percent).


Blocked Shots Totals High Too

With 120 blocked shots for the 2010-11 season, Eastern finished only 10 blocked shots away from the school record of 130 set in 2006. Currently, the Eagles have 94, and are on pace to finish with 108 based on a 30-game season.

A trio of current Eastern players have recorded four of the top 12 single season performances in school history including Cliff Ederaine, with 32 this season to rank eighth. Last year’s performers on the list included Tremayne Johnson (35, third), Ederaine (34, tied for fourth) and Laron Griffin (28, now tied for 12th).

In their careers thus far, Ederaine ranks fourth in school history with 66, Griffin is fifth with 64 and Johnson is now seventh with 54.


True Freshman Walk-On Parker Kelly Has Career-High 17 at Weber State, Then Game-Winner Versus UNC

Walk-on guard Parker Kelly, a true freshman out of Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, Wash., is getting significant minutes as he continues to adjust to the college game. His is averaging 17.0 minutes in conference play and 13.6 minutes per game overall. He is averaging 5.8 points in the league on 18-of-39 shooting from the 3-point arc (46 percent), and has made 13-of-14 free throws (93 percent). Overall, he is averaging 4.2 points and has made 42 percent of his 3-point attempts (23-of-55) and 94 percent of his free throws (15-of-16).

Most recently, he scored nine second-half points on a trio of 3-pointers, including a game-winning trey with 14 seconds left in the come-from-behind 79-76 victory. One game earlier, Kelly scored a career-high 17 points in EWU’s 84-75 loss at Weber State on Feb. 11. Kelly, whose previous high was 12 on two occasions, made 6-of-10 shots from the field, including 5-of-8 from the 3-point arc versus the Wildcats. “Parker Kelly played a heckuva basketball game -- I’m so proud of him,” Eastern head coach Jim Hayford said.

Earlier in the league season, Kelly equaled his season high with 12 points against Northern Colorado on Jan. 14, and had eight points in 21 minutes in EWU’s 69-52 victory over Montana State on Jan. 28. He followed that with 11 second-half points against Northern Arizona on Feb. 2, as the Eagles rallied from an eight-point second-half deficit to win 74-68. Down the stretch, Kelly made a basket with 4:06 remaining to put the Eagles up by seven, then made a trey with 1:18 to play to enable EWU to maintain a six-point advantage. He then knocked down 4-of-4 free throws in the final 51 seconds to ice the win for the Eagles.

“I was pleased with the job that Parker was doing,” Hayford said after the MSU rematch. “Parker has great character, he’s a solid person and that’s what he keeps showing over time. I’m really proud of how he is playing. We don’t have a lot of depth so there is a walk-on freshman playing 21 minutes in a big game -- so great job Parker.

“The player that came up with the most clutch plays was our only true freshman on the team,” praised Hayford after the NAU game. “Parker hit a big clutch shot with the shot clock going down and then made those big free throws. He had a lot of courage tonight.”

Kelly helped Gonzaga Prep accumulate a 73-11 overall record and 45-5 league mark in three seasons. He helped lead the Bullpups to the 2011 State 4A Championship, as they were 23-3 after finishing the Greater Spokane League season with a 14-2 record. Kelly scored 24 points in the State title game and earned second-team All-State Tournament honors. Also selected to play in the All-State Game, Kelly averaged more than 18 points per game as a senior en route to earning first team All-Greater Spokane League honors.

His father, Terry, had his No. 44 basketball jersey retired by Gonzaga Prep, as he averaged 26.2 points per game his senior year in 1976 to lead the Spokane City League in scoring. He was the league’s player of the year after leading the Bullpups to a third-place finish at the State AAA Tournament. He went on to Washington State University where he started 80 straight games at one stretch and led the Cougars to the 1980 NCAA tournament.


Tongue-Lashing Keeps Winford Out of UCLA and PLU Games

In a tongue-lashing of a rare kind, junior guard Kevin Winford had to sit out the UCLA game on Dec. 14 and the Pacific Lutheran game two days later because of a swollen tongue. Winford bit his tongue in EWU’s game at Cal State Fullerton on Dec. 11, then spent two days in a California hospital – some of it in intensive care -- because of an inordinate degree of swelling. He returning to play sparingly – just one minute -- against Saint Mary’s on Dec. 20.

Because he is Eastern’s backup point guard, starter Cliff Colimon was forced to play all 40 minutes against UCLA because of the absence of Winford. A 2008 graduate of Bartlett High School in Anchorage, Alaska, Winford is only averaging 10.9 minutes per game this season, and is averaging 2.1 points per game on 9-of-29 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc. But the 5-foot-11 academic All-America nominee provided the play of the game in Eastern’s 104-54 victory over Linfield on Dec. 8.

 “The best play of the night was Kevin’s drive and dunk down the lane – that was pretty emphatic,” Eastern head coach Jim Hayford said. “He’s a very athletic player and we want him to show it. That was an example of it. He’s just a great young man – a tremendous student and a great leader. He’s a business major, and some business will be really glad to hire him some day. I just think the world of him. I promise you he’ll be showing his grandkids that dunk someday.”

Winford poured in 39 points -- including a school-record 10 3-pointers -- in Eastern’s overwhelming 112-41 non-conference victory over New Hope Christian College on Dec. 4. En route to the fifth-best scoring night in school history against New Hope, Winford broke the school record of nine treys he set just a week earlier against Idaho on Nov. 27. As a team, the Eagles broke the school record for made 3-pointers (18) and three pointers attempted (43), and tied the mark for field goals made in a game with 45. Previous records were 16 3-pointers versus Cascade on Dec. 14, 2007; 38 attempts versus Nevada on Feb. 14, 1991; and 45 field goals made against U.S. International on Feb. 2, 1991.

Winford’s 23 three-point attempts were also a Big Sky Conference record, breaking the previous mark of 17 set by Nevada’s Kevin Franklin against Oregon on Dec. 16, 1989. His makes were third-most, with Portland State’s Brian Towne owning the record with 12 in a 1998 game against Idaho State. As a team, Eastern was two made 3-pointers from the Big Sky record of 20, but its 43 attempts were a record.


Hayford’s First Eastern Win Has South Dakota Connections

Coming full circle, Jim Hayford’s first win as Eastern Washington’s head coach came in a 70-61 win on Nov. 15 over South Dakota. South Dakota was directed by veteran head coach Dave Boots, who has won nearly 500 games in 23-plus seasons at the helm of the Coyotes. In fact, in the 1999-2000 season, Boots’ South Dakota squad knocked off Hayford’s University of Sioux Falls team 95-73. Hayford went on to finish 15-15 in his first season as a collegiate head coach, while the Coyotes finished 22-6.

“I’ll always remember my first win at Eastern was against South Dakota,” said Hayford. “It’s kind of poetic because my first head coaching job was in South Dakota.”


Thanks to One of Best Non-Conference Records as Member of the Big Sky, Winning Season Still in Reach for Eagles

It’s been five years since the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team has had a winning record, and its successful non-conference season has helped the Eagles make that an attainable feat. Now in its 25th season as a member of the Big Sky Conference, only seven of those years has Eastern had a non-losing non-conference record. Eastern is now 6-7 in non-conference games, and still has to play UC Irvine on Feb. 18 in the Sears ESPN BracketBusters.

Eastern’s last winning season came in 2006-07 – with sophomore Rodney Stuckey leading the way – when EWU finished 15-14 and 8-8 in league play. One season earlier, the Eagles were 9-5 in the Big Sky in Stuckey’s freshman season – the last time the Eagles have had a winning record in league play.

The 2006-07 season was also the last time Eastern has enjoyed a .500 or better record in the non-conference portion of its schedule. Eastern was 6-5 in the 1989-90, 1990-91 and 1997-98 seasons; 5-5 in 2000-01; 8-6 in 2002-03 when Eastern advanced to the National Invitation Tournament; and 7-6 in 2006-07 when the Eagles tied for fifth in the league but did not advance to the league tournament because of tiebreakers.

Eastern entered league play 6-6, and Hayford looked forward to the new experience of Big Sky Conference play after going 4-0 at home and recording huge road wins at Hawaii and Idaho during the pre-conference portion of his debut season. Until those victories, Eastern hadn’t won consecutive road games since the 2007-08 season.

“Everything is a first-time experience for our program, but I’m loving the journey,” first-year head coach Jim Hayford said prior to the team’s league opener. “I want them to win and they want to win. They are hurting when they lose, and that shows me a lot. I think I owe it to our team to take a big-picture step back and say we have played some good basketball. But we need to keep doing that.

 “We’re 6-6 and we’ve played eight out of 12 on the road,” he explained. “Saint Mary’s is probably a top 25 team and Gonzaga spent some time there, and we have three losses to Pac-12 teams. Those are five losses to teams that would be picked to win the Big Sky if they were in our league. We’re 6-1 in the other seven games, and you can take away the non-Division I wins if you want. That’s 4-1 against similar teams and I think we’ll be alright during the league season.”



EWU-UC Irvine Series History

Eastern is 3-3 all-time against UC Irvine, having lost the first three meetings and winning the last three. The teams last met in the 2008-09 season when they had a home-and-home series against each other. Eastern won 74-69 in Irvine on Nov. 19, 2008, then won again 11 days later in Cheney, Wash., by a 78-64 score.

12/28/86 - L - UC Irvine - 68-97 – 4
12/13/88 - L - UC Irvine - 101-112 – A
12/9/95 - L - UC Irvine - 66-86 – A
12/4/96 - W - UC Irvine - 80-53 – H
11/19/08 - W - UC Irvine - 74-69 – A
11/30/08 - W - UC Irvine - 78-64 – H
4 -- Anteater Classic


EWU-Idaho State Series History (Since 1983-84): Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 32-26 against the Bengals, including a 22-7 record in Cheney and 9-18 mark in Pocatello (1-1 on neutral courts). Eastern lost eight-straight games to ISU from 1993 to 1997, and leads in the all-time series 35-27 (24-6 in Cheney, 10-20 in Pocatello, 1-1 neutral).

Eastern has won 21 of the past 30 meetings against the Bengals, including a sweep in the 2010-11 season when both meetings took place within eight days of each other. The Eagles won 83-70 in Cheney on Jan. 29, 2011, and then were victorious 69-67 in Pocatello on Feb. 5, 2011. Eastern also recorded season sweeps in the 2001-02, 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. Eastern has won the last eight meetings in Cheney, dating back to a 65-63 Bengal win at EWU on March 1, 2003.

Idaho State swept the Eagles in the regular season in 2002-03, but Eastern won the third meeting by a 76-67 score in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament. In the 2009-10 season, Eastern lost at Idaho State 80-74 but won 79-71 in Cheney where the season ended for both teams.

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